by Kirk Jackson
Many excuses have been made for Manny Pacquiao’s poor performances in his most recent bouts. Fights against Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, and some may even say Timothy Bradley come to mind.
As we will see, however, the whole Bradley situation is another issue.
When facing Mosley, what was hyped up as a classic clash for supremacy, was instead a catastrophic let-down for fans. But anyone paying attention to Mosley’s career could predict the lousy outcome. The 39 year-old was far past his prime, with two consecutive poor showings in his fights leading up to Pacquiao. After getting a taste of Pacquiao’s power in the early rounds, Mosley decided to move around the ring, tapping gloves constantly and avoiding many of Manny’s punches in the process, while boring anyone who watched.
Mosley looked unmotivated; Pacquiao looked bored and puzzled over how to mount some form of effective attack. Many of the media, trainers and others involved within the Pacquiao circle, and members of “Pactard Nation,” cited leg cramps and political distractions for his lackadaisical performance.
In facing Marquez, despite fighting a guy who is 38-years-old and fighting at an unnatural, higher weight class, Marquez once again stretched Pacquiao to his limits, and in the eyes of many (excluding “Pactard Nation”) did enough to earn a victory. Marquez took the reigns as ring general, controlling the pace of the fight, limiting Pacquiao’s aggressiveness throughout the course of the match. Pacquiao’s lack of aggressiveness was in part due to Marquez’s amazing counter-punching ability and distinct timing. Although outgunned in speed and all of the other physical categories, the Mexican legend used his intelligence and heart to put on a stellar performance.
Even after he was announced the victor, Pacquiao didn’t look like his usual confident self. There was a lot of doubt leading up to the announcement and he looked like a defeated fighter. Leading up to the fight, Pacquiao and company thought he was going to steam-roll through Marquez, seeing as how his rival was 38-years-old and fighting at an uncomfortable weight–which is nothing new because most of his opponents in recent years have fought at an uncomfortable weight and or where on the down-side of their careers.
The last time–actually the only time–Marquez faced a great fighter in the welterweight division was against Floyd Mayweather, who was coming off an 18-month layoff. That turned out to be a one-sided pugilistic debate in favor of Mayweather. Whether the fight would be different if they were naturally closer in weight is debatable, although it’s fair to say most people would agree Mayweather’s slick, defensive style would give Marquez problems regardless of weight, similar to what Freddie Norwood did against Marquez.
Leading up to Pacquiao’s third fight against Marquez, Pacquiao was reported to be in the best shape of his life: he was absolutely killing sparring partners and supposedly the difference in the fight would be his newly developed sinister right hand. The same “right hand” that was supposed to be the difference in their second fight, the same “right hand” Mayweather is afraid of. Pacquiao does throw the right hand with more regularity now, but it’s hardly a deadly weapon.
Ironically, after Pacquiao’s poor performance against Marquez and even a few days before the fight, there were accusations of steroid use by Marquez from the Pacquiao camp. Stories of Pacquiao’s marital issues broke into the news, cramping problems were once again brought up, and even the distractions of his political campaign were used as excuses for his poor performance.
Finally, there was Pacman’s fight last weekend with Bradley.
In comparison, Pacquiao looked better against Bradley then he did against Mosley and Marquez. At first glance, the only negative thing you can take away from his performance was he wasn’t more active, and let Bradley out-work him, despite his supposed legendary level of conditioning. Before the fight started, the HBO commentary team was quick to bring up a list of Pacquiao’s activities, including his political duties, his television show, advertisements, etc.
Preparing an excuse, in case the unthinkable happened.
Everyone has an occasional off night. Michael Jordan wasn’t perfect every game he played; we’re all only human. There may be some legitimacy to the excuses the Pacquiao camp puts out in regards to his performances. But as we have seen over time, whenever Pacquiao doesn’t steam-roll over someone, excuses are made.
Against Erik Morales in their first fight, the excuse was the gloves they used and the blood test before the fight. However, they were punching each other with so much regularity in that fight, I’m not sure if gloves would have made much of a difference, and in regards to the blood, Pacquiao suffered a cut in which he lost more blood in comparison to the small sample they took from him before the fight.
In his second fight against Marquez, Pacquaio blamed blisters and bad socks for his performance. When he fought Shane Mosley, cramping was an issue and was the cause of his putrid performance. Those may all be legitimate excuses, but do you see a trend here?
I don’t think all the aforementioned excuses were the exact causes of his poor performances. The cause for bad performances is the movement and angles those particular fighters gave him, and in the case of Morales and Marquez (especially Marquez), the jab and counter-punching gave Pacquiao fits.
If you examine Pacquiao’s recent fight history, he usually fights slow, flat-footed opponents who aren’t counter-punchers.
The things that give him problems are boxers who have some form of defense. Fighters who can counter-punch effectively, who possess a good jab, who offer different angles and move around on their feet. Those are the reasons for Pacquiao’s struggles in recent bouts (excluding Bradley), not the other excuses mentioned. There are only a handful of fighters left in Pacquiao’s weight class who can offer all of those qualities.
I would never question Pacquiao’s toughness; I wouldn’t dare question the toughness of any fighter. You have to be brave to enter that ring; any punch can seriously impact your health or possibly kill you. But I’m just not a huge fan of excuses and lack of accountability. In other sports, guys like Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning do not make excuses. They go out and perform, even if not at 100%, and take the criticism, not making excuses even if they fail.
Pacquiao is heralded by certain members of the media as a boxing legend who is humble, gracious and the ultimate sportsman, although his words and actions show otherwise.
I think it’s an act, honestly.
I understand Pacquiao is a busy guy.
I think we all get it.
But that’s on him.
If his fighting career suffers, that’s his fault. He is the one choosing to do all of these things; he is capable of making his own decisions.
Heading into his last fight, I honestly didn’t think he would have a problem with Timothy Bradley. Although Bradley is a good fighter in his own right, I thought he lacked the tools to pose a serious threat to Pacquiao. Bradley doesn’t possess great punching power, has a suspect chin and does not possess the counter-punching ability of a Juan Manuel Marquez.
But according to the judges, Bradley’s higher work rate and determined will proved to be enough to score the controversial upset victory.
I wonder what the excuse will be this time.